This report examines results from the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) for foster students completing this test in 2005 and 2008. For this study, we follow two cohorts of foster youth and analyze changes in assessment scores between 4th and 7th grades and 7th and 10th grades.
Overall, the “met standard” rates for foster youth completing the WASL are between 15 and 30 percentage points lower than for other students. Foster youth, however, have much higher rates of grade retention, school mobility, and other factors associated with poor test scores. As this analysis shows, a student’s previous test scores remain the strongest predictor of future assessment results. Between 69 and 77 percent of foster youth who took the math WASL in 2005 and 2008 failed to meet standards in both years (40 percent did not meet reading standards for both tests).
About half of foster youth who completed the WASL in 2008 were not in foster care three years earlier. Youth in care typically come into the child welfare system with educational deficits. Across all students, foster youth scored in the 29th and 23rd percentile on the reading and math WASL, respectively. Given the size of these gaps, even successful interventions are unlikely to bring educational outcomes to the student average (50th percentile). We found that for younger students, the number of months in foster care was associated with modest gains in WASL scores. The greatest improvements in WASL scores occurred for students in foster placements lasting between 20 and 22 months.